Siri and Spotlight receive their search results through indexes from search providers such as Bing and Google. However, a note on Apple’s support site mentions Applebot – a web crawler that trawls the internet.
Over the last few years, Apple has been reducing its dependence on third parties and offering users more choices. However, it’s possible that, over time, the index Apple builds could support the creation of its own search engine.
In 2013, Apple acquired Topsy, one of only several companies with access to Twitter’s ‘firehose’ or full stream of tweets.
Given mobile search has now eclipsed the desktop according to Google, Apple’s play may be to offer its own search tool for mobile devices.
This wouldn’t be the first time Apple has tried for its own search engine. Back in the late 1990s Apple included a search tool called Sherlock on OS 8.5. As well as searching the local system, it could pull results from the web.
An extension to Spotlight, that could search the web as well as local systems, would make an interesting change to OS X. However, usurping Google’s search market leadership would be very challenging.
While it’s possible, we think it’s unlikely Apple will launch an assault on the search business.
We see Applebot as a potential tool for Apple to enhance their iAds platform to help deliver more targeted ads. By better understanding web content, they could extend iAds beyond iOS devices to other platforms.
Applebot respects customary robots.txt rules and robots meta tags. It originates in the 18.104.22.168 net block. If robots’ instructions don’t mention Applebot, but do mention Googlebot, the Apple robot will follow Googlebot instructions.
That means website managers can choose to treat Applebot differently to Googlebot.